The pending U.S. free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, each featuring strong growth opportunities for dairy exports, hit another snag last week in their long road to approval. The Senate Finance Committee was forced to postpone a scheduled "mock" markup due to political disagreement over the renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which provides financial aid and training to displaced workers.
Employing the Trade Promotion Authority allowed for free trade agreements, the president may "fast track" legislation, requiring a strict "yes" or "no" vote from Congress without any opportunity to offer amendments. Following historic precedent to gain support, however, President Obama submitted draft legislation to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee for "mock" markups. These markups present the only opportunities for Congress to offer amendments to the administration's draft trade agreement legislation.
Republicans Boycott Mock Markup
As part of a deal struck between the administration and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), President Obama included the renewal of the controversial worker assistance program in proposed legislation to implement the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. As a result, Republican members of the committee boycotted the mock markup, citing their opposition to including the program as a part of any free trade agreement legislation. Without a quorum, the committee was forced to postpone the vote.
The Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee, which is scheduled to hold its mock markup on Thursday, is expected to separate the TAA program from the U.S.-Korea agreement. Ultimately, however, all details of trade legislation submitted under "fast track" procedures are at the discretion of the president.
Meanwhile, the European Union-South Korea Free Trade Agreement became effective July 1. IDFA has pressed for quick congressional approval for all three trade agreements, especially with South Korea, because IDFA believes the pact between the EU and Korea threatens strong potential U.S. gains in market share stemming from provisions in the pending U.S.-Korea agreement.
"These free trade agreements are very important for dairy exporters," said John Kelly, IDFA manager of international affairs. "IDFA has consistently urged the administration and Congress to work towards the passage of all three, and we remain hopeful that the latest roadblocks can be overcome."
For more information, contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.